Pesticide in Weedkiller Linked to Parkinson’s

By - November 1, 2018
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Several researchers at Penn State University believe they have found a possible link between a pesticide and Parkinson’s disease. (1). The pesticide in question is called paraquat. It was widely used as a weedkiller before being banned in the US in 2007.

Researchers at the Penn State College of Medicine conducted experiments with paraquat and lectins as well as proteins found broadly in nature. They also experimented in uncooked vegetables, eggs, and dairy. They determined when mice were fed paraquat and the proteins mentioned above, they began to develop symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Thjyagarajan Subramanian, who is a professor of neurology and neural and behavioral sciences, was one of the authors of the study. The professor noted that the study provides ample evidence that lectins, when present with some toxins, could be one possible cause of Parkinson’s disease. Also, this animal model could be a tool in future years to continue to develop new drugs and treatments for the disease.

More Details Linking Parkinson’s to Weedkillers

Additional research also has revealed how the pesticides paraquat and maneb may alter gene expression and lead to Parkinson’s disease in people who are genetically more likely to get the illness. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has noted for years that environmental exposure to pesticides could boost the risk of developing the disease.

Older clinical studies also suggest that paraquat and maneb especially can boost vulnerability to Parkinson’s disease in those who are more likely to develop it. More recent clinical studies have tried to understand the complex neuronal mechanisms at work in this link between some pesticides and Parkinson’s.

For example, some clinical studies suggest that pesticides can interfere with neurogenesis, which is the process where the brain creates new neurons in the hippocampus. This is a vital brain region for information processing and memory.

Pesticides can have this effect by altering our genes. Now, another study by researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario has explained some ways in which these weedkillers can lead to genetic mutations and neurodegeneration. Senior study author Scott Ryan, who is a professor of molecular and cellular biology, noted that people who are exposed to these pesticides have about a 250% higher chance of getting Parkinson’s disease than the general population. (2).

Researchers studied stem cells from patients who have Parkinson’s disease who had a gene mutation that was responsible for encoding the a-synuclein protein. A minimum of 30 alterations of this gene could be associated with Parkinson’s, and a-synuclein protein clumps are a poorly understood but well-documented sign of the disease. For the newer research, scientists also focused on work with standard embryonic dells that they made modifications on using genetic editing to provide a replication of the a-synuclein genetic mutation.

Ryan explained why the research and the use of human cells make the study especially valuable to draw a connection between certain pesticides and Parkinson’s. Until now, he said, the link between the chemicals and the disease was mostly based on animal studies and epidemiological research that showed a higher risk for farmers and others regularly exposed to such chemicals. This is one of the first studies to look at what is occurring inside human cells.

Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that eventually become specific types of cells. Ryan and his fellow researchers used two major stem cell types to obtain dopamine-producing nerve cells from each. Then they exposed those neurons, most known to be affected by Parkinson’s – to the two chemicals.

Result – Pesticides Starve Neurons of Energy

These experiments showed that the neurons that were exposed to paraquat and maneb had their faulty mitochondria. Mitochondria are called the powerhouses of the cell, and are the organelles in our cells that transform sugar, fats, and proteins into the energy we need to function and survive.

The study showed that mitochondria inside the dopamine neurons that were affected by the pesticides could not move as easily as they usually would. This caused energy to be depleted of energy. Ryan believes that the results mean EPA should reevaluate their guidelines for both pesticides.

Other Research Points to Other Pesticides and Parkinson’s Link

Experts from research in Neurology also stated recently that rural living and exposure to some insecticides were major risk factors for developing Parkinson’s. The 11 pesticides mentioned in the study were in four categories: dithiocarbamates, imidazoles, dicarboximides, and organochlorines. (3).

Glyphosate-Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Lawsuits Also Loom

As if all of these links to serious health problems and herbicides were not enough, Monsanto and its new owner Bayer AG have been facing thousands of lawsuits alleging that exposure to glyphosate – the active ingredient in Roundup – can lead to some forms of cancer, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. One of those lawsuits involved a former groundskeeper in San Francisco who developed terminal cancer from his exposure to glyphosate on a regular basis. The jury awarded him $289 million in damages (4), which has spurred thousands of other lawsuits against Monsanto and Bayer.

Needless to say, pesticide companies will be facing serious scrutiny in coming years as details are uncovered about the serious health risks associated with exposure to these toxic products.


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